Tag Archives: Controversy

The MOST American Commercial of Super Bowl XLVIII

30-60 seconds. The elevator pitch of advertising. The client tells you that you have 30-60 seconds to grab the attention of an audience that would otherwise be doing something else, deliver the message that client wants to convey, get that message to resonate in the minds of that audience who may or may not still be paying attention and, ultimately, persuade them to believe in that client’s product so much that they will pay money for it. This is Marketing/Advertising with Media 101, how else can you justify paying millions of dollars for 30 seconds?

Every spot has an agenda. Where it gets tricky is in the ‘HOW are we going to do this?’ category. We’re long past the days of the generic cookie cutter commercials: familiar, politically correct setting, a quick problem presents itself, which is then easily settled by…you guessed it…using said product! Cue jingle, bam! Commercial. You still see these from time to time, but not in the Super Bowl. Only the pros play in the Super Bowl. This is where we as Americans have come to demand the BEST at everything. From the Halftime Show to the broadcast to the actual game itself. If it’s not your best, don’t bring it, I mean…come on…it’s the Super Bowl.

Now step back and remember the advertiser’s challenge: conveying that message in 30 seconds (unless your client has buku budget and thinks that, in a generation used to 140 character messages and 6 second online videos, 60 seconds is a far better idea), to an audience that demands to be entertained, amongst a cluster of other 30 seconds messages all trying to do the same thing. It’s like trying to have the best billboard on a road that everybody hates traveling but takes anyway to get to the big concert. Oh, and there’s another billboard every .000001 miles.

A lot of stuff goes into these commercials before an idea is even put into place. There are focus groups, surveys, opinion polls, demographic analysis, etc. Once the problem has been established, THEN it’s time to go about finding a solution. More focus groups, surveys, psychographic analysis, etc. Should we go for funny? Should we get a celebrity endorsement? What music should we play? It’s a science, one that most would consider insane for a 30 second outcome, but this is what YOU have come to demand. Super Bowl = ‘impress me, commercial’.

That formula has grown to be increasingly consistent. You can almost ALWAYS expect GoDaddy to do something out of the ordinary, you can ALWAYS expect Old Spice to throw some seconds of just pure random, like they rolled ‘bowling’ ‘old asian mother’ and date night’ on a set of dice and ran with it. Chrysler has been sticking to the vintage-ish, 60+ second spot with a serious monologue from a celebrity endorser, viewed sometime before or after Halftime.

Then you’ve got your heavy hitters: those that have been doing this consistent theme for the better part of a decade. Oh look, Doritos has a child or animal attempting (and succeeding) in stealing a bag of Doritos from a clumsy adult. Toyota’s using an aging celebrity mixed with something kids can enjoy (this year: The Muppets…ooohhh cross-promotion for a new movie, didn’t see that coming) on a weird road trip. Budweiser…something something mix in a cute puppy or trainer that has grown into a friendship with the Clydesdales. Every. Single. Year.

Surprisingly though, there’s not this outrage of ‘haven’t I seen this before?’ This is because, after those rounds of focus groups, opinion surveys, statistic analysis, etc, it STILL works.

Then there’s Coca-Cola.

Remember that Coke spot in 1971? The ‘Hilltop’ spot where everyone around the world sang “I’d like to give the World a Coke”? I know..I wasn’t even born then, but I’ve had access to a computer my entire life and odds are, based on all the parodies created from this and the amount of times it’s been used as an example in Advertising, Marketing and even History classes from Jr. High up, there’s a good chance you’ve seen it regardless of how old you are. If not…geez…here.

This was the foundation Coke built in branding itself as ‘the Beverage that unites the world’. They’ve done an exceedingly good job at this throughout the years, sticking to this message and many times driving it home through traditional mediums like TV and radio ads, outdoor advertising, online marketing and guerrilla tactic campaigns. This Super Bowl XLVIII spot was no different in honoring that original 1971 Super Bowl spot. ‘America The Beautiful’ sung tremendously through multiple languages. That’s Coca-Cola, they’ve done it, they don’t show signs of stopping. Because it’s worked. This kinda did too; it got people talking. But not ‘man, that was good’ or ‘I liked that’, or most importantly ‘now I want a Coke’. Instead it was ‘why are there multi-national people singing OUR country’s song?’.

Consider these points: Coca-Cola inc., is a product distributed around the world. The Super Bowl is a game that is viewed by the masses…around the world. It’s one of the few nights of the year that we have the world’s attention for something other than national disaster or politics. Now, were I put in Coca-Cola’s shoes, how could I appeal to as many viewers as possible and put my brand in a position to gain max profits from this highly coveted commercial slot?


Let’s pay homage to our roots, uniting the world through our product WITH a twist: It’s America’s Night, we’re playing America’s Sport, let’s sing the American Song, but unite the world in doing so by singing it through different languages.

It was brilliantly executed, but, just as everyone sitting on my couch that evening watching it recognized, it was bound for controversy. It’s evident every time something like this comes around that our country has difficulty accepting the fact that there are differences that exist, both international AND domestic. We are, in fact, a conglomerate nation. Founded by multiple nationalities from multiple cultures that all brought something to the table and ultimately, that’s what has made us as great as we are. One race, one culture, one idea cannot make a nation this great, it took a little bit of everything. It’s what gave us Democracy (an idea that caught fire through the FRENCH Revolution), Music (pick your nationality for this one), Football (started from Soccer no matter how badly you want to deny it) and even Taco Tuesdays. It’s our diversity that makes our nation turn. The country that was founded on the idea that everyone is created equal and no one should be persecuted for their beliefs. This includes language, gender, race and sexual orientation.

I guess the upside from the whole situation is that it is becoming increasingly clear through commercials like this that hate IS diminishing. Until then we just have to continue to ride the wave with a focus on our path.  Hopefully, one day the world will be united, maybe even Coca-Cola will be the one to do it. Just not this time it seems.

Overall, brilliant advertisement. Well thought, well shot, way to stick to your guns and keep consistent with the theme that has in many ways made you. Bravo, you get America better than we get ourselves.



Twerking For The Win

Not even a week removed, I’d like to be among the few to congratulate MTV on another VMAs that went exactly as planned. Solid performances, pre-show buzz (NSYNC reunion say what?), but most of all, not even a week removed, everyone is still talking about it.

It may have been the better part of two decades since they’ve played an actual music video, but whether or not you are willing to admit it, MTV still knows exactly what you thrive on.  They do research, hire professionals. They’re good, they’re very good.

For…ever, MTV has subscribed to the theory that America loves controversy, mainly because we do. When it comes to music awards shows, it’s tough to establish an annual tradition that will bring the viewers back year after year.  At the top sits the Grammys, the unheralded standard of music awards shows. The trophy that any artist will proudly position atop their mantel because they know what it means to receive one.  Out of every single one of your peers, a panel of professionals chose YOU and YOUR WORK as the best that year. The Grammys are undebatable. Any other awards show starts to falter down the scale of credibility. The Teen Choice Awards were awesome, then you got a locker and five minutes to get to class and this became too much.  The country music awards shows are nice, but there’s 37 of them so they kinda drown each other out.  Keeping this in mind, there’s only one way MTV can keep the top of the conversation on the water cooler (Twitter) with the VMA’s: Controversy.

MTV has done so for years.  Kanye & Taylor Swift, Bruno t-bagging Eminem, Beyoncé announcing her pregnancy and then panning the camera to Jay-Z chilling stage-side with some guy that turned out to be Lady Gaga. Speaking of Gaga…meat dress…all I gotta say.

Oh yeah, and lest we forget MTV gave us Jersey Shore.

This kind of stuff would NEVER fly at the Grammys. One would be banned for life. MTV not only allows this, they embrace it. They want you to be shocked, outraged, offended even. It’s the philosophy of ‘any press is good press’, it’s why the Kardashians are relevant, it’s why we watch.

Especially in the social media generation, where we’re way more likely to complain than compliment. 10.1 Million tuned in for the show, up from last year and a decent number. However, the true victory comes in the social media buzz. Everyone, both online and on-site, were stoked for the possibility that NSYNC were reuniting (don’t kid yourself, yes you were). Although Timberlake didn’t disappoint in ANY way, by far the best performance of the show. Impressive, but it didn’t set the record 360,000 tweets per second, beating Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance. That would be Miley’s…performance… Like the Sean Connery card in Apples To Apples, controversy trumps all.

Five days removed, Twitter’s still abuzz, meme’s are getting created at record pace and conservative groups have absolutely had it and are letting us all know.  It’s what we in the media are trained to look for and talk about, in turn creating a table of debate for you to go at on your Facebook page. Miley’s performance may not define her career forever, but it will definitely be a staple for years to come.

So to the Operations Manager at MTV, I once again congratulate you on getting exactly what you wanted.  Again you have the captured the buzz, the press and the general public for a solid week in a way no other awards show can. Many will throw their stones and spit their venom at you, saying you are ruining the values of American society, but you know as well as I do that you are just working the system we have in place to your advantage. I know right, what did they expect? See you next year!